VCU's strengths, weaknesses and players to watch
All advanced statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 26.
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 58
VCU's offense is its strength, as it shoots the ball well while also avoiding turnovers.
The Rams make a high percentage of three-pointers (36.7 percent, 62nd nationally), which is more impressive considering they take a lot of shots from beyond the arc (41.1 percent of their shots are threes, 23rd nationally).
VCU also makes a high percentage of its free throws (71.5 percent) while turning it over on just 17.1 percent of its possessions (25th-best nationally).
Defensively, the Rams do one thing really well: force turnovers. VCU's defense comes away with turnovers on 22.4 percent of its possessions (51st nationally) and creates steals on 12.7 percent of its possessions (11th nationally).
The Rams don't foul much defensively, posting a defensive free-throw rate that ranks 84th nationally. They've also been playing their best defense lately, as three of their last four opponents have been held under 1 point per possession; before that, 13 of VCU's 14 opponents had topped the 1 PPP barrier.
VCU is a veteran group, with its average player having 2.16 years of experience (49th nationally).
VCU just isn't a good defensive team.
The Rams rank 106th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency; if you placed VCU in the Big 12, the Rams would rank ninth in that statistic.
The team's biggest problem is its inability to keep opponents away from the offensive glass. VCU's opponents have grabbed 36.2 percent of their missed shots this year, which ranks the Rams 318th nationally in that category.
VCU isn't good at forcing missed shots either. Opponents make 49 percent of their twos (47.8 percent is NCAA average) and 34.4 percent of their threes (34.4 percent is NCAA average).
The Rams' struggles inside also show up in the offensive statistics. VCU pulls down just 31.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds (213th nationally) while getting 11.4 percent of its two-pointers blocked (306th nationally). VCU's free-throw rate also is just below NCAA average, meaning the Rams aren't a good foul-drawing team.
VCU also has a thin bench, as only 27.1 percent of the team's minutes come from reserves (258th nationally).
Players to Watch
You'll hear a lot about 5-foot-10 senior guard Joey Rodriguez, but he's far from VCU's most efficient player.
Six-foot-9 senior forward Jamie Skeen is better, as he is a great shooter inside (56.3 percent from two-point range) and outside (38.9 percent from three-point range on 72 attempts) while also getting to the free-throw line more than anyone else on the team (free-throw rate ranks 74th nationally).
Six-foot-5 junior Bradford Burgess also is a dual-threat, as he's made 117 of 217 twos (53.9 percent) and 60 of 149 threes (40.3 percent) while turning it over just once every 22.9 minutes.
Rodriguez's strength is his passing, as he's contributed 29.7 percent of his team's assists while he's been on the floor (87th nationally). Still, he's turnover prone (committing a turnover every 15 minutes of gametime) and has been awful inside the arc, making just 65 of 192 shots (33.9 percent).
Also watch for 6-2 guard Brandon Rozzell, who provides VCU with an offensive lift off the bench.
Rozzell's usage is high (he ends 26.9 percent of the Rams' possessions when he's in), but he's been productive by making 71 of 179 threes (39.7 percent) while keeping his turnovers way down (one every 30.1 minutes). He's also quick defensively, coming away with steals on 3.4 percent of opponents' possessions (103rd nationally).
Statistically, this appears to be the second-easiest team KU has faced in the NCAA Tournament, behind Boston in the Round of 64.
Though the Rams have been better defensively as of late, their season-long numbers resemble that of a lower-level BCS conference team.
VCU's biggest weakness will be going against one of KU's greatest strengths, as the Rams struggle with defending the interior and also haven't been able to put up much of a fight on the offensive or defensive glass.
If the Rams hope to have any shot, they'll need to try to play even with the Jayhawks rebounding-wise. Even if they do that, they'll most likely need to hit a lot of three-pointers to win (which they're capable of) while slowing down KU's frontcourt scoring.
VCU does throw a lot of different defenses at teams to try to get steals, and this might not be a bad time for the Rams to try a packed-in zone. Because the Rams are so overmatched inside, that kind of defense would force KU to hit open three-pointers to win.
It might be a long shot, but at this point, so are the Rams.